How Bolero Can You Go?

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Second week of double lessons on Tuesday.  In the first one, JoNY and I ran through the same four rhythm dances – Rumba, Swing, Cha-Cha and Mambo.  I swear there is something different about the sound system at this new studio because I can have a hard time picking up the beat and staying with the timing.  But, despite that, all four dances came together pretty well.

The Rumba is the slowest which makes it the easiest – as long as you ignore my non Latin hip action.  The other problem is really just trying to express the feeling of the dance because you know what Rumba is all about and it is difficult for me to really go there.  Besides, JoNY’s got this big, loud personality and it doesn’t quit fit with a slower romantic dance.

The other dances are faster and high energy and much easier to really get into because the music is just going to move you anyway.  OwnerGuy claims he can eventually modify them to put in some slower sections but, for now, both dances are just go-go-go.  Start the music, step on the gas pedal and floor it all they way through.  We had a couple of places in the Swing where the transitions weren’t the greatest but OwnerGuy fixed those on our next lesson.  I do know that one of my biggest problems with those dances is the leg action on the Cha-cha-cha and the triple step in swing.  Even though they are toe leads, you are supposed to get your heels on the ground.  In Swing, that creates a “bouncy” kind of look.  But my stupid knees don’t like that action so I usually end up cheating a bit and stay more in the balls of my feet which makes me too light.  Always something to work on.

We managed to loop the Mambo several times which is something we hadn’t done before because I couldn’t quite figure out the last step before the loop.  But, through trial and error, JoNY and I figured out what I was supposed to do and it kind of leads right into the loop.  She really likes the Mambo and I do to because it is again a fast, high energy dance and I seem to like those.  We did have a question about several steps in each dance where we are in a palm to palm hold and supposed to be working off each other.  Just needed to figure out (a) the best position and (b) how high or low I need to be.

Since group class was sandwiched between my lessons and because there was an extra lady, I went so the numbers would be balanced.  Plus, sitting around and watching group class is kind of boring and there really isn’t enough time to get out of my dance shoes and really get anywhere knowing that I have to be back for my lesson.  It was a Swing and OwnerGuy showed a step I hadn’t done before.  Turned out to be a pretty cool step although I didn’t write it down so I may not remember it all.  There’s lots of turns and, as men, we end up with an arm behind our back for a lot of the step.  It’s one of those steps that when you see it, there look to be hundreds of moving parts, but, when you do it, a lot of it just comes automatically.  If you are wrapped up in a certain way, there is often only one way to unwind so you don’t really have to think about it.

Saving the worst for last, the second lesson was with OwnerGuy and was on Bolero.  Bolero is the dance where I curse my arthritic knees the most.  It’s a beautiful dance with a lot of long, flowing movements.  With my relatively longer legs, I could probably make it look good except that the basic starts with what is essentially a lunge.  You slide your left leg away at an angle while lowering into the right.  Then, you can transfer weight to the left and rise up while sliding the right leg behind the left (slip pivot) and then pushing out on the right.  Well, I can only go so far before my knee says “NO MORE”.  So I’m never going to really get as low as you should.  It is what it is but I don’t like it.

Well, yesterday was a rough lesson.  OwnerGuy was all about head weight and shaping and all these advanced things that do take your dancing to the next level but, for some reason, it was all foreign to my body.  So I’d end up giving him the blank stare because I really had no idea what he wanted me to do.  Even when he broke it down and explained what he wanted from me, I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen.  So the dance felt all disjointed and clunky and not the smooth, flowing thing that it should be.

Which put me in a not so great place.  I have this running battle with confidence because I’m not supposed to be a dancer.  The artistic talent was not supposed to go to me.  I was the smart one who got all the brains while my siblings did choir and music.  Now, nobody ever really said that to me but it was kind of the general impression.  And I can sometimes block those thoughts from my head but it becomes harder when I’m tired and struggling like I was last night.  Its this taunting little voice saying “See, you can’t dance”.  And there are times I can’t help but listen.  So then I just want to quit and run away.  I mean do I really need Bolero in my dance repertoire?

The worst part about getting to that place is that I don’t help myself because I start doing all the negative self talk which only makes things worse.  And then I take every compliment and find a way to make a sarcastic comment and come back to the main point that I can’t dance.  It’s a talent.  It’s not productive or helpful but it’s a talent.  I guess to be honest, sometimes I just want to live in that place for a bit so I just fight the attempts to bring me out.

Funny thing did happen at the end though as I’m grousing about how bad things were and ignoring OwnerGuy and JoNY’s attempts to pull me out of the funk.  The new girl starts telling me about how much she enjoys watching me dance and something about how we moved seemed to amaze her a bit.  And that’s why she was pointing to me to encourage her students to come to the open house next week.  For me, it is the same dilemma – what I feel doesn’t match what people see but too often I chose to ignore what people see.  At the end of the day, Bolero is probably going to be the toughest dance to incorporate the things OwnerGuy wants me to do but I feel a little better about my chances today than I did yesterday.  To be clear, I’m not ego tripping on her comments but it is a data point that needs to be considered.

We’ll close with a work out story because I did that before either lesson.  We did some leg stuff so my legs were a bit tired (and sore today).  One of the things he had me do was to put a resistance band around my ankles and then just take side steps across the gym while keeping tension on the band.  I did the same thing last Friday and I was telling my wife about it on Saturday because the muscles I was using were sore.  She kind of scoffed at the ability of an elastic band to do that.  Fortunately, I just happen to have some at home so I made her give it a try.  She was singing a different tune after a few steps.

So that’s how yesterday went.


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